The Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA
9/20/19

Photo: Bruce Baker – indiemusic.photos

“Would you rather be be smexy but you only live for one more year, or fugly and you’re immortal?” Harriette Pilbeam, otherwise known as Hatchie, posed this question to her audience at LA’s Echoplex a short ways into her set. It’s a good indicator of the evening’s mood, with lighthearted humor and observation tinged with existentialism.

For one thing, opening act Frank Lukas goes by the somewhat paradoxical name Storefront Church. But like religion and business, art and commerce go hand-in-hand in late capitalism. Lukas’s lo-fi Americana embodied much of the same juxtapositions; I mean, a song titled “Altruisticmillennialbohemianheartbreak” sort of gave that away. Even still, his languid guitar and voice resonated as quite serious, and seriousness registered as somewhat off-key for an evening punctuated with “Would You Rather…” premises.

Before Hatchie hit the stage, her guitarist Jeremy McLennan brought out their own band, shoegazey outfit Orchin. Similar to Pilbeam, the neon-haired McLennan also carried themselves with a tongue-in-cheek charisma well-suited for this fun, low-key weekend night out. “Excited for Hatchie? I hope so, because I play guitar for them,” they joked between songs.

Much more upbeat than the other acts, Orchin flitted between psychedelic, hazier tracks such as “My Wish” and cheery kickers like “Usually.” The latter track gave the audience an appreciated kick drum-assisted boost of energy all while visuals of kangaroos and wushu warriors played onscreen in the background. The marsupials felt especially appropriate for a song entitled “All Down,” just one ‘under’ away from being too on-the-nose.

Also from down under, Hatchie made her way to the stage with the same nonplussed attitude of those before her. Though her debut album, Keepsake, arrived just months ago, Pilbeam appealed to her diehards by leading with cuts from her Sugar & Spice EP. While “Try” came across as a warmup instead of an intro, “Sugar” felt like a proper opening with Pilbeam’s voice taking flight into her higher register.

Once she hit her stride, Pilbeam soared through the rest of the night. Her voice echoed (no pun intended) enough to immerse the venue in a fog of dream pop. “Sleep” and “Obsessed,” the latter a particularly playful and driving song, offered a chance for a bit of dancing (see: indie-show swaying).

At the climax, she unleashed the ever-pining “Stay with Me,” a song so pleasing you overlook its damages. When the dust cleared, she concluded with another treat for her day-ones listeners, early favorite “Sure.” This final pairing aptly closed out the show; dreams had come and gone, but the magic came in experiencing them in the first place.

Oh, we could kiss the stars together/ It doesn’t have to last forever” she crooned as the disco ball cast its own tiny celestial bodies around the venue. Far from a curse, finality sounded like a relief to her: she probably wouldn’t choose immortality either, and is all the wiser for it.

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